A pioneering vertical farm that completed its topping-out ceremony just under a year ago has been granted planning permission by Dover District Council to extend.
GrowUp Farms’ Pepperness site at Discovery Park near Sandwich has been given the green light to push ahead with expansion plans that will raise the height of the current farm to 24.87 metres from 18.9 metres to accommodate more growing chambers, which will help the farm to increase its output by 40%. There will also be a new chiller building with loading bays, a new plant building, parking spaces for 30 cars, and three HGV vehicles and provision of 27 ground level cooler units.
Talking about getting the go-ahead for the extension, Tom Ehrman, Engineering Director at GrowUp Farms, said: “I am delighted to report that planning consent has been granted for the extension of our Pepperness farm. This allows us to quadruple farm output while doubling the number of full-time farm employees from 30 to 60. I would like to thank everyone involved in the process, particularly Dover District Council for their ongoing support.”
GrowUp Farms was the first vertical farm in the UK to launch a branded salad into a major supermarket group with the launch of Fresh Leaf Co. into Iceland stores across the UK earlier this year.
The planning consent is the icing on the cake for GrowUp Farms, which celebrates 10 years in business this week – just days after Founder and Chief Brand Officer Kate Hofman was a guest at 10 Downing Street for the Farm to Food summit as an industry expert.
In the past 10 years, the pioneering founders, Kate and Tom Webster, have taken the concept of vertical farming from a small unit in London using aquaponic methods, to the huge vertical farm, Pepperness, following a £100 million investment last year.
Kate said: “It’s been a busy 10 months since we launched GrowUp Farms at Discovery Park with the GrowUp Farms team working round the clock to help us achieve our goal of being the first vertical farm to launch a branded salad into a major supermarket chain.
“Getting the green light from the planning department at Dover District Council means we can really start to ramp up production at Pepperness, supplying more Fresh Leaf Co. to Iceland stores around the country as well as launching a new salad brand later this year.
“Our R&D team are working hard to solve some of the challenges that will allow us to grow other crops such as identifying heritage seed varieties that can’t be grown conventionally and improving the growth cycle of certain plants. Vertical farming is very much a long-term solution to the problems we have seen recently caused by climate change and issues with supply chains, which have led to a shortage of salad vegetables in supermarkets for fresh produce.
“The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter. Our farm at Pepperness is going to play a key role, alongside traditional farming, in helping the UK end its over-reliance on imports, and getting this planning permission is going to go a long way in helping us to achieve that goal.
“Discovery Park is the perfect location for our farm, and we are thrilled to be able to be part of the really supportive business community there as well as being an employer of local people.”
Ben Amory of GrowUp Farms speaks to BBC Southeast about how investing in the right kind of high-quality projects, such as Heather Corrie Vale, is a great way to help fight climate change.
Kate Hofman, Founder and Chief Brand Officer of the first UK vertical farm in the UK to supply supermarkets with a branded salad product attended Rishi Sunak’s Farm to Fork Summit at 10 Downing Street on 16th May 2023 and says she urged the government to extend the sustainable farming incentives to Vertical Farms – which are playing a crucial part in making the UK more self-sufficient in food production.
GrowUp Farms, which grows salad crops commercially all year round in perfect conditions in its farm in Sandwich, Kent, was the only Vertical Farm invited to the summit, at which industry experts discussed the rising cost of food, labour shortages, and the UK’s dependence on overseas for its food.
Other attendees included Chris Butler, Managing Director of Thanet Earth, Florian Richter, Founder of Muddy Machines, and Simon Pearson from Lincoln University.
“The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter, and UK salad production is at its lowest point in 40 years,” says Kate Hofman, “and our dependence on other countries for vegetable crops and other produce inevitably plays a part in the rising cost of food prices for the consumer in the UK.”
“I was very happy to be invited, as a pioneering vertical farm, because it demonstrates that the Government is starting to understand how vertical farmers can be part of the solution to a range of challenges domestic food production is facing. Using less water, less nitrogen, producing less waste and with zero agricultural runoff and no pesticides, vertical farming could enable England to meet its Environmental goals much more quickly. What we now need is a level playing field for all producers of high quality food that delivers positive environmental impact so that we can produce even more sustainable and affordable food for shoppers.”
Pepperness, GrowUp Farms’ commercial-scale vertical farm in Kent, represents a £100m investment, will support over 80 high-skilled sustainable agricultural jobs, and produces environmentally friendly fresh produce year-round in the UK.
Their crops are grown using renewable energy, and as a registered B Corp, combating climate change and having a positive impact on the planet, is at the heart of everything GrowUp Farms does.
GrowUp Farms has achieved an industry first with the launch of a salad brand grown in the UK all year in a vertical farm. Fresh Leaf Co is affordable and lasts longer than other bagged salads, mainly due to the way it is grown.
It combines its innovative farming technology with renewable energy. This is cheaper and more efficient and means GrowUp Farms is not affected by the labour shortages and gas prices squeezing greenhouse and conventional farmers in the UK.
- GrowUp Farms – the first vertical farm to launch a branded salad into a major supermarket group – is the first vertical farm to meet the Approved Buyer criteria for the Wilder Carbon Standard for Nature and Climate
- New partnership will help GrowUp Farms to fight climate change and boost biodiversity in Kent
GrowUp Farms, is a registered B Corp, a pioneer in vertical farming with a farm in Kent, and has recently launched Fresh Leaf Co.® into Iceland stores across the UK.
Fresh Leaf Co. is the first-ever branded salad available to buy in a major supermarket group and is being described as an “industry first” with the launch of a salad brand grown by a vertical farm commercially in the UK all year.
In its drive to be an industry leading sustainable food business, GrowUp Farms has become the first Approved Buyer of carbon units generated by the Heather Corrie Vale wilding project, which is located on a former abandoned golf course in the Darenth Valley in Kent.
The wilding project is certified under the Wilder Carbon Standard for Nature and Climate, a not-for-profit natural climate solution, for which Kent Wildlife Trust is a Trusted Deliverer.
Heather Corrie Vale is one of the first live Wilder Carbon projects and GrowUp Farms will now be directly contributing towards the transformation of the site. As an Approved Buyer, GrowUp Farms has shown that it meets the Wilder Carbon Standard, which ensures that only those businesses that are taking steps to demonstrably reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change can be involved.
Kate Hofman, founder and Chief Brand Officer of GrowUp Farms, said: “We are thrilled to be the first Approved Buyer of Wilder Carbon credits from Heather Corrie Vale and to meet Wilder Carbon’s high standards when it comes to being an Approved Buyer.”
“We are a low-carbon salad producer that has recently launched the first branded salad from a vertical farm into a major supermarket chain. Our crops are grown using renewable energy, and as a registered B Corp, combating climate change and having a positive impact on the planet, is at the heart of everything we do. We are also keen to be part of the long-term solution to ending the UK’s over-reliance on fruit and vegetable imports.”
“However, there’s always more we can do to fight climate change. Investing in the right kind of high-quality projects such as Heather Corrie Vale that remove carbon and boost biodiversity is one of the best ways we can do this.”
“We are really impressed with all the hard work that Wilder Carbon and Kent Wildlife Trust have put in to make pioneering projects like this possible. We’re absolutely delighted to be working with them and are looking forward to supporting more nature-based carbon removal in the future.”
Sarah Brownlie, Wilder Carbon, said: “We are delighted to see Grow-Up Farms partnering with Kent Wildlife Trust to directly contribute towards a certified Wilder Carbon project that will lock up carbon whilst also improving biodiversity abundance.”
“The climate and nature crises are intertwined, and Wilder Carbon projects deliver solutions to both by restoring nature and its natural processes.”
“By working with businesses like Grow-Up Farms, who have shown a real commitment to reducing their own emissions we can offer long-term carbon lock-up by restoring our valuable native habits here in the UK.”
Kent Wildlife Trust. Registered Charity no. 239992.
Kent-grown salad brand Fresh Leaf Co.® has landed in Macknade Food Hall with its red + green mix salad leaves. After launching into Iceland stores earlier this year, this is the first independent listing for the vertically grown salad, as part of the brand’s wider strategy within farm shops and delis nationwide. Fresh Leaf Co.® gives shoppers affordable and tasty salad that stays fresher in your fridge.
The red + green mix salad leaves are a combination of rich red and crispy green baby lettuce leaves. The naturally longer-lasting leaves solve the big problem of bagged salad going to waste. 63% of shoppers say they would buy more bagged salad, and buy it more often if they knew they would waste less.
The UK relies on importing 67% of the salad we eat each year, and over 90% in the winter. Every Fresh Leaf Co.® salad bag is grown and packed in the UK in a vertical farm, using 100% renewable energy, helping to support the UK food ecosystem.
Vertical farming is a way of growing food indoors under LED lighting with complete control of the growing environment. In the perfect conditions of a vertical farm, plants are grown without pesticides. They are ready to eat and have a naturally long shelf life.
Lisa Bell at Fresh Leaf Co. says “Fresh Leaf Co.’s listing expansion into Macknade Food Hall is a brilliant opportunity for two local Kent businesses to provide shoppers with a unique product that directly responds to the never-ending pressure on shoppers’ purse strings. Our salad shows how innovation and technology can support UK food and farming in Kent to build resilience and become more self-sufficient.”
Daniel White, Greengrocery Buyer for Macknade, comments, “At Macknade, we are continually looking at our supply chains to ensure we are working towards our goal of social & environmental harmony, and adding Fresh Leaf Co. to our shelves is just another example of this. This bagged salad gives our customers an affordable choice, which is kind to their purses, as well as our planet.”
Fresh Leaf Co.® salad is available now at Macknade Food Hall priced at £1.25.